olympic notebook: shuttlecock

(Of course, there was an Olympic notebook. Or rather, an Olympic yellow legal pad. And like any notebook, I wrote down a few things that turned out to still be interesting the next day. And a few that didn’t.  Expect a couple of the interesting things here over the next few days.)

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Shuttlecock. Everybody likes having a legitimate reason to say (or write) the word “shuttlecock” in an all ages public forum. According to the Olympic notebook, the badminton  commentators told us that the Olympic badminton shuttlecock  is not the little plastic doohickey of our backyard games but a handcrafted widget made with 16 feathers from the right wing of a white goose*.

My guess was that the feathers had to be from the right wing because of some directional element–if you always use right handed feathers the shuttlecocks will behave consistently over time and thereby promote fair competition at the badminton nets. But the commentator  went on to tell us that right wing feathers are used because the right wing is stronger– since geese always turn in the same direction when they take off. I am skeptical, and will be watching any white geese I see from now on to see if they display any excessive levels of consistency at takeoff.

*Doesn’t that sound like a line from a fairy tale? ” ‘Ere I give you (whatever exotic object or experience you need to take the next step on your quest), you must bring to me sixteen feathers from the right wing of the White Goose who Guards the Garden of th Moon”. Expect the task to be rather more trouble than it sounds.

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